Monday, March 31, 2014

Editorial: Build more public transit and all road users will be happier

Image courtesy of
For most Americans, when we think of transportation, we start by thinking about cars first. That is how most of us have grown up and most Gen Y and Millennials have spent countless hours in their family's cars, traveling to and from school or extracurricular activities. Oftentimes what we grow up with has a major impact on how we perceive situations as adults. With transportation, it is no exception as most Americans still get up in the morning and drive to work every day. Yet, things are beginning to change.

In 2013, American public transit use reached its highest level in 57 years. The report, compiled by the America Public Transportation Association (APTA), noted that the 10.7 billion (yes, that's billion with a "B") trips are composed of largely mass transit options, such as buses and trains, which have made a comeback as uncertain economic times have discouraged many American's from spending the funds on a personal vehicle. Combine that with the increase in cycling in urban environs, and Americans seem to be making a conscious shift away from personal vehicles.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Test Drive: 2013 Audi A4 Premium 2.0T Quattro

Don't forget to participate in our first ever Giveaway Contest! Just like us on Facebook if you haven't already, and share any article to participate. Click here for more details. A winner will be selected at the end of April.

With my S2000 in the body shop after being rammed in a parking lot during a doctor's appointment, I needed a rental car to get me to and from work. Unable to find anything at a reasonable price from the large rental chains near LAX, a Google search led me to (you can read my review of Silvercar by clicking here). Long story short, I ended up with an Audi A4 2.0T Quattro for two and a half days instead of whatever econobox one of the large chains would have stuck me with for a higher price.

At first glance, the current generation of the A4 is a fairly handsome car. Since this car came with the lighting package, it had the new LED daytime running lights and xenon HID headlamps. The LED daytime lights have a very sinister and aggressive look and offers a good contrast to the rest of the car with its fairly smooth lines. There is one major thing working against the look of the A4 though, and that is the standard 17 inch wheels for the Premium trim, which are far too small for the car. They look tiny inside those large wheel wells. The optional 18 inch S-Line wheels, or the standard 18 inch wheels in the Premium Plus and Prestige trims look far better on the car. In fact, it seems to be the case with a lot of cars these days, where 17 inch wheels just no longer cut it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Driving 101: Lane discipline

Image courtesy of
Continuing our lessons on driving, our next topic of discussion is very near and dear to my heart, mostly because it is one of the things that irritates me the most regardless if I am on two or four wheels. The concept of lane discipline is absolutely lost on most American drivers. The idea is that if we are more disciplined with how we occupy traffic lanes, then there will be freer flow of traffic and everyone will have a much more enjoyable behind the wheel. That is the ideal situation, anyway. Reality feels more like total chaos with most drivers more interested in asserting their dominance as opposed to demonstrating their mastery of driving.

Drivers generally occupy whichever lane has the fewest cars or wherever they happen to feel like being with little consideration for the impact this has on other drivers. However, this often results in traffic being tied up as people rather selfishly, or perhaps just obliviously, occupy the lanes without a thought to traffic patterns at large. Sometimes, this is due to distractions in the car, which is a whole other topic, but sometimes it is due purely to a lack of understanding of how their actions can impact everyone around them.

So, through a series of examples, I hope to highlight several key situations and point out which lane discipline principles to apply to help make traffic flow more smoothly for everyone.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Editorial: Our drunk driving laws need to change

Image courtesy of the City of Berekeley
It is drilled into us all through our childhood and every driver's ed class goes to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate the potentially catastrophic outcomes of driving while under the influence. We have all seen the photographs of the cars wrapped around trees, crushed on the side of the road, or otherwise destroyed by drunk drivers. We have all seen the videos of the drunkards stumbling through the roadside sobriety test administered by a police officer on the verge of busting out laughing. We have all heard the stories of people needing to blow into a breathalyzer in order to start their car because of prior DUI convictions. And yet, as usual, legislation continues to trail public sentiment and loopholes continue to allow offenders to escape any serious punishment.

Take, for example, the case of Ethan Couch from Texas.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Guest Post: The Big Picture - Half the Road

Our friend Christine T. from Richmond, VA returns with another guest post. This time, she reviews for us a recent documentary on the inequality that exists in the world of women's competitive cycling.

Image courtesy of the
Women's Cycling Association
In her debut film, pro cyclist Kathryn Bertine tells the story of the struggles women endure on and off their bikes. Her film presents interviews with top cyclists such as Kristin Armstrong (no relation to the chemically enhanced Lance Armstrong), Marianne Vos, and Chrissie Wellington, among others. Echoing their sentiments about the plight of women’s racing are the former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona and various exercise physiologists. Half the Road also takes a trip into the offices of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body of sport cycling, to see what they’re doing to suppress or support women’s cycling.

Women hold up half the sky of equality and progression

After being asked by ESPN to reach for the gold at the 2008 Olympics, Bertine began learning about the challenges that keep more women from riding competitively. As she learned about Olympic cycling and women’s professional cycling, she realized that there was a story that needed to be told. From the history of women’s equality in sports to the present plight of women’s cycling, the film progresses from lesson to lesson.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Giveaway: The First Ever East-West Brothers Garage Giveaway

As a thanks to you, our loyal readers, we at East-West Brothers Garage want to give back with the chance to win a small prize package consisting of a Scion branded messenger bag and 2GB "dog tag" style flash drive along with a $10 gift card to your choice of car, motorcycle, or bicycle store.

Entering into the drawing is simple:

1. Like our Facebook page if you have not already done so (click here for our Facebook page)
2. Share any article from our Facebook feed (including this giveaway announcement) with your friends

That's it! Entries will be accepted until the end of April, at which point we will pick a winner at random. We will contact the winner via Facebook to arrange delivery and get their preference for the gift card.

Thanks again to our readers, and good luck!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Editorial: The fight for direct-to-consumer automobile sales

By now, you have probably heard about Tesla's latest defeat at the hands of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The new legislation put in place will halt all sales of Tesla cars by April 1, meaning that those interested in getting a Tesla Model S will need to move quickly or be forced to travel to one of the neighboring states to be able to get their car. This ongoing battle between Tesla and the dealership associations of various states seems to have become more than just an isolated battle about the desires of a single manufacturer to shake up the way in which the car selling business is done. In fact, it seems to have sparked a debate about the value of dealerships to the average consumer, including the value of a dealerships service department.

The New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers (NJCAR), a dealership lobby group, is trying to promote the argument that dealerships are good for consumers and are there to protect the consumer from the evil car manufacturers who are just out to rip them off. Of course, this argument completely overlooks all of the stories that seem to pop up regularly about unscrupulous salesmen taking advantage of an unsuspecting victim. While a few bad apples should affect our impressions of all dealerships, it is hard for them to take the high road when the negotiating process for a new car results in a hugely varied range of prices based on the negotiating skill of the individual consumer. This does not even begin to get into the service side of things, where dealerships have earned the rather unflattering moniker of "stealerships" for their less than forthcoming practices.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Road Trip: Snow Mountain Vermont

To say it was hot on this Friday was an understatement. I suspect the surface of the sun might have been a more pleasant place to be. Less humid. Sweat poured down my neck as I loaded the last of our luggage in the car for our weekend away from the city, and hopefully from the heat. Pulling the TSX out of the driveway, A/C running at full tilt, the outside air temperature read at a touch over 100 degrees, though the humidity drove the heat index to well over 110. Still, my wife and I pressed on, spurred by the promise of cool mountain breezes and a relaxing weekend in a state I had yet to visit in my travels.

Massachusetts flashed by quickly, every mile away from Boston bringing with it cooler temperatures and milder conditions. The greenery was extremely lush thanks to the endless rains we had experienced all summer and the shade along the road was a welcome reprieve. As we passed through Western Mass and swung up towards the Snow Mountain area in Vermont, the roads became increasingly windy and shaded. As we entered Vermont for the first time, we passed through a number of sleepy little towns, populated with quaint covered bridges and artist colonies. In fact, many of the artists were participating in an open house over the weekend as we saw many signs indicating as much.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Test Drive: 2014 BMW 428i xDrive Sport Line

Let me start by saying that snow sucks.

The only thing worse than snow is ice. Of course, here in the Boston area, we have gotten an ungodly amount of snow this winter. The car-sized piles of white stuff, now frozen into little ice mountains, lined both sides of the road when I set out to get a test of the new BMW 428i. Since the sun was bright in the sky, but the air temperatures were low, the ground had plenty of black ice and so a RWD version was out of the question. However, an xDrive version was readily available and so I happily took the keys while the car was dug out and defrosted.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Editorial: What makes a car beautiful?

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So when it comes to cars, it is no surprise that different people find different design elements attractive while others may find those same design elements repulsive. And yet, there are some design elements universally considered to be attractive on their own, but once all of these elements are combined into a single vehicle, the end result may not be found attractive by any. Some of this is simply a matter of finding that balance point where too many design elements cause a vehicle to start to appear too busy while too few elements can make the vehicle feel too plain. But is there a formula out there that automakers can follow in order to find the right balance and create a vehicle that nearly all will find attractive? Is it even possible to create a vehicle that is universally seen through the same lens?

Let's dissect some of the recent trends in automotive design and see if we can determine what are desirable elements and how they factor into the overall sense of a vehicle's beauty.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Long Term Test: 2014 Acura MDX FWD Tech post #1

Long-term Introduction
Current Mileage: 1,857

Our new 2014 MDX (Left) with the old 2011 MDX (Right)
Our family has actually owned at least one version of each generation of MDX to date. The MDX has always been the luxury workhorse in the family, providing ample space to haul boxes of documents for work, or seven people and their luggage for vacation. Each successive MDX our family has owned has gotten bigger, but it has also gotten better in some way. The 2014 MDX that we picked up on the same day we picked up our 2014 RLX is better than the 2011 MDX we previously owned in virtually every way, except for the fact that this is the first MDX we have owned that does not have AWD.

Wanting to find out if the new MDX could still hustle as quickly as the old one, even without SH-AWD, we took the car out on the Palos Verdes Peninsula to thrash on it a bit. Here, there are some great twisty roads that run right along the coast, offering not only a fun place to drive, but spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. With the MDX's new Integrated Dynamics System (IDS) and transmission set to sport, we made our way up and over the hills to plunge down towards the water, me in the MDX and East Brother following in my S2000 with GoPros attached.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Consumer Advice: Silvercar

Silvercar's garage near LAX
At some point in time, we have all had to rent a car from a car rental company. For the most part, people generally rent from one of the major national car rental chains like Hertz, Enterprise or Avis. Unless you sign up for one of their memberships, getting a car from one of these chains can be a gigantic pain. Long lines, lots of questions, sometimes unruly customer service, and let us also not forget that sometimes the car you reserve is not even available when you show up. And what are you supposed to do when you arrive at the rental counter after hours? At least at LAX, unless you are a Hertz customer, you are basically out of luck. Even if you are a Hertz customer, assuming you do not have their gold membership, you are stuck using one of their automated kiosks that can take up to 30 to 40 minutes just to get a car. Is there a car rental company out there that does away with the long lines, paperwork, and overall ridiculousness of renting a car from one of the major chains? Enter Silvercar.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Editorial: Predictability is the name of the game

In society, we have rules. Some of them are written in the form of law, others are unwritten and simply understood by all. When it comes to road use, most of the rules are well defined, whether you are behind the wheel of a car, riding atop a two-wheeled conveyance, or traversing the streets by foot. Many of the rules are intended to make it so that when our various and disparate forms of transportation meet each other out on the road, we know what to expect and how to react. Making these interactions predictable means safer roads for everyone.

So what happens when someone decides to be unpredictable? In 2009, there were 10.8 million motor vehicle accidents on our roads. That encompasses accidents between cars and just about every other possible road user imaginable. It is likely that many of those accidents were preventable had one or more of the parties involved been more predictable in their behavior. By following the laws, we allow others around us to be able to better anticipate our actions and thus operate more safely.